Angels rival offseason review: The Houston Astros are still the team to beat

Oct 28, 2022; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Astros starting pitcher Justin Verlander (35) throws a
Oct 28, 2022; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Astros starting pitcher Justin Verlander (35) throws a / Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

For years, the team to beat in the AL West has been the Houston Astros and in 2023 that will be no different. The Astros are the defending World Series champions and despite an offseason where they probably got a little worse, Houston is the cream of the crop not only in this division but in all of baseball. The Los Angeles Angels have a tall task in front of them with this team in their division.

The Astros won the division for the fifth time in the last six seasons after going 106-56 in 2022. The only year they didn't win the division was in the shortened 2020 season. They still made the ALCS. Houston has made six straight ALCS appearances and have won four pennants in that time. They've been dominant.

With most of the big names off the board, let's take a look into how the Astros have done this offseason.

Despite taking a big hit in free agency, Houston remains a team the Angels will likely look up to in the standings.

The Astros headed into the offseason as a team without many holes. They could've used an upgrade in left field and at first base but they just won the World Series with what they had! With Spring Training just a month away, they seem to have filled both of those holes but lost a huge piece in the process.


  • RHP Justin Verlander - signed with the New York Mets
  • C Christian Vazquez - signed with the Minnesota Twins
  • 1B/DH Trey Mancini - signed with the Chicago Cubs
  • UTIL Aledmys Diaz - signed with the Oakland Athletics
  • SS Franklin Barreto - signed minor league deal with the Washington Nationals
  • C Jason Castro - retired
  • 1B Yuli Gurriel - free agent
  • LHP Will Smith - free agent
  • RHP Josh James - free agent
  • RHP Nick Hernandez - free agent


1B Jose Abreu - signed three-year deal
RHP Rafael Montero - signed three-year deal
LF/DF Michael Brantley - signed one-year deal
2B Dixon Machado - signed minor league deal

The Astros lost the reigning Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander to the New York Mets. That obviously will sting but if anyone could afford to lose a Cy Young winner it's the Astros. Houston has Framber Valdez, Christian Javier, Lance McCullers Jr., Luis Garcia, and Jose Urquidy still there.

They also have Hunter Brown, a prospect who looked unbelievable when brought up at the end of the season, as an option as well. Houston is loaded with depth and should have one of the better rotations in the game once again even without Verlander.

The Astros made three trades at the deadline and none of the players they acquired panned out like they had hoped. Christian Vazquez was supposed to be an offensive upgrade over their other catcher Martin Maldonado but he didn't provide much offense in Houston and Maldonado still started most of their games. Vazquez signed a three-year deal with the Twins.

Trey Mancini hit just .176 as an Astro and had one hit in 24 postseason plate appearances. He was supposed to be a DH but he didn't hit. He is now a Chicago Cub. Will Smith was acquired in exchange for Jake Odorizzi. He did not make a postseason appearance for the club. It's possible they bring him back, but their bullpen is already set.

Yuli Gurriel is a player who really struggled in 2022 and was replaced with former MVP Jose Abreu. That's a pretty sizeable upgrade even if the contract length is bad.

Rafael Montero came to Houston and was their eighth-inning man. He was re-signed very quickly and will assume that role once again in front of closer Ryan Pressley. The Astros bullpen remains elite.

Michael Brantley missed most of the 2022 season with injury and the Astros won without him. He's back and provides another really solid left handed bat when healthy. He can hit anywhere in the order and be a productive player. Houston proved they don't need him, but they're obviously better with him.

Overall, losing Justin Verlander hurts. I'd say they're only slightly weaker because they addressed left field and first base. The Astros have a deeper lineup than they did last season and that's scary. Even without Verlander, their pitching remains elite. They're the team to beat in the AL West and the American League as a whole.

For the Angels, a postseason berth is very much possible. A division title however is very hard to predict with this juggernaut in the way.

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